Cool off in the North Queensland heat by taking a dip at these Townsville beaches, rockpools and swimming holes.
Fringed by the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef and tropical islands just a short boat ride away, and boasting 300 days of sunshine each year, the coastal city of Townsville is a destination where sun, sand and sea are part of the daily holiday routine. From golden beaches to calm rockpools to refreshing wild waterholes, here are the best places to go swimming in Townsville.
1. The Strand
Named Queensland’s Best Beach by Surf Life Saving Queensland in 2021, The Strand is a 2.2-kilometre stretch of beach that offers safe swimming spots for cooling off in the North Queensland heat.
Stroll along The Strand’s palm-fringed promenade. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Protected by the breakwater and offshore islands – including Magnetic Island – the waves along The Strand are either gentle or non-existent, which spells perfect conditions for families with young kids. There are two safe swimming spots – The Strand North and South – which are patrolled by lifeguards over summer and installed with stinger nets during ‘stinger season’ from November to May.
Tracing The Strand is a palm tree-lined beachfront promenade, comprising a walking and cycling path, playgrounds, picnic spots, and dotted with cafes, bars and ice-cream stalls. You can also try stand-up paddle boarding or go jet-skiing from The Strand.
Soak up sparkling sea views. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
2. The Strand Rockpool
At the northern end of the promenade, The Strand Rockpool is another safe place to go swimming in Townsville.
This seawater pool is stinger-resistant and is patrolled by lifeguards in summer and has a gentle slope with wheelchair access. Kids can splash about in the shallows, while older kids and adults can swim deeper.
Dip in the waterfront rockpool at The Strand. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
There are toilets, barbecue facilities, a playground and kiosk open daily for lunch and dinner, and plenty of grassy areas for relaxing with views out to the ocean.
The Strand is a popular weekend hangout for families. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
3. Rowes Bay
Rowes Bay is a quiet beach just north of the city of Townsville and can be accessed via a walkway from The Strand Rockpool.
The beach doesn’t have any stinger nets and isn’t patrolled, so swimming is at your own risk here. However, the 4.2-kilometre-long beach is great for long walks, sand-playing and fishing at the mouth of Three Mile Creek, which is found at its northern end. Rowes Bay is fringed by a grassy foreshore and has an excellent family-friendly caravan park nearby.
Capture relaxing nature views at Rowes Bay. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
4. Pallarenda Beach
Located north of Rowes Bay, separated by Three Mile Creek, Pallarenda Beach is a popular beach for swimming. It is patrolled by lifeguards during summer and stinger nets are also installed from November to May during stinger season.
The northern section of the beach forms part of Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park, which features an historic quarantine station and a WWII battery, as well as many walking and cycling trails.
Pallarenda Beach is a dog-friendly beach; your four-legged friend is allowed to exercise off-leash – but be aware of crocs if your dog likes to swim.
Feel the warm sea breeze at Pallarenda Beach.
5. Bushland Beach
Part of the northern beaches of Townsville, about a 25-minute drive from the city centre, Bushland Beach is a great spot for walking and fishing. It’s also excellent for young children to wade about in the shallows at low tide, searching for shells and marine animals.
There are no stinger nets here, so swimming is at your own risk, however, it’s a picturesque beach and a great place to relax. There are picnic areas, barbecues, and a beachside tavern and kiosk.
Catch breathtaking sunrise views at Bushland Beach.
6. Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island, or Maggie as the locals fondly call it, boasts 23 bays and beaches so is a hotspot for swimming, snorkelling and other aquatic adventures. Accessed via a ferry or car barge, the island makes for an idyllic day trip and has five main beaches.
Explore Magnetic Island and the nearby Great Barrier Reef. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Home to the island’s surf lifesaving club, Alma Bay has rock pools, a kid’s playground, barbecues and a grassy area. Horseshoe Bay is another patrolled beach and is an excellent place to spot turtles, rays, dugongs and dolphins.
The stunning emerald green waters off the coast of Magnetic Island. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Picnic Bay has a jetty and two wrecks of a paddle steamer and a wooden steamship. Nelly Bay – which has a long stretch of sand and a grassed area shaded by palm trees – and Geoffrey Bay – home to a popular wreck dive site and giant clams – aren’t patrolled.
Swim in the azure waters of the rockpools on Magnetic Island. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
7. Little Crystal Creek
Around an hour’s drive from Townsville, Paluma Range National Park is a wonderland of waterholes. If you don’t mind cold water, pack your towel and explore the many wild swimming spots found here.
Little Crystal Creek is famous for its heritage-listed 1930s stone arch bridge that crosses over a cascading waterfall. You can swim on both sides of the bridge and take shade under it between dips. Be cautious of slippery rocks, and never jump or dive into the swimming holes as rocks and other hazards can be submerged.
Cool off on a hot day at Little Crystal Creek. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
8. Big Crystal Creek
Located right near Big Crystal Creek campground in Paluma Range National Park, Paradise Waterhole is another popular spot for cooling off.
This pristine deep-swimming pool is surrounded by lush foliage and rocky outcrops. Two kilometres further along Big Crystal Creek, Rockslides is a picturesque series of cascades and waterholes, also suitable for swimming. Be cautious of slippery rocks, and never jump or dive into the swimming holes as rocks and other hazards can be submerged.
Visit the Big Crystal Creek if you’re in dire need of a dip. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Safety Tip: Safe swimming in Croc Country
Townsville is part of ‘Croc Country’ and no waterway can ever be considered free of crocodiles. Crocodiles can stay submerged in shallow waters and may not be easy to spot, so it’s important to be vigilant.
To reduce your risk, swim between the flags at patrolled beaches, don’t swim at dawn or dusk, avoid swimming in murky water, read and obey all crocodile warning signs.